Friday, 29 June 2012

Parenting - not for the faint-hearted

The other day, I noticed a tweet from another blogger who said that her daughter thought she was evil, because she had said no to ice-cream. I replied to her that my kids think I'm evil daily but such is life. She replied that it's hard not being liked but that it must be part of being a parent. 

And it's true. You can't be your children's friend all the time. You love each other, but there are a lot of times when you just don't like each other very much. The old phrase "tough love" rears its ugly head. 

Little did I know that this would come back to haunt me so quickly. That afternoon, I went to collect the children from school and Monkey was being challenging to say the least. The current focus is my old laptop - it hasn't been working for months, but I've recently had it repaired and have cleaned it of my work data, so now it's designated for them to play on and both children are beyond excited. Both had spent a considerable amount of time on it since, but I had said the night before that we were going to get reading out of the way first before any screen time, and Monkey had said OK to that. 

On the way back to the car, Monkey was already asking if he could play on the laptop. I reminded him of the deal and he threw a tantrum, claiming he didn't remember the deal we had made. His tantrums are very vocal and he starts blaming everyone (except himself) and everything for the injustice in the world. This one was so bad, I stopped the car after pulling away because he was making me angry. He went on so much, I decided I had to act. "OK then, there will be no laptop at all for you this evening. I am not standing for behaviour like this."

This was not received well. We had tears, recriminations, screaming, kicking of legs for the duration of the 5 minute journey, clearly because he thought he could change my mind and I would relent. I stood my ground. 

We got home and one of the neighbour's children appeared as we got out of the car. I explained to him that Monkey couldn't play with him. Monkey went mad. Shouting, screaming, kicking, crying, you name it, he did it. I tried to calm him but he was pushing all my buttons and winding me up (plus, it's not fair on Missy Woo, she loses attention and it's not her fault; she is much less antagonistic although liable to whines and sulks.)

Eventually, I cracked. I told him he was not staying up to watch any football, sent him to go and get his pyjamas on, he would then do his reading and have some tea, then go straight to bed. This was met with even more recriminations but I stood strong. He came downstairs to read and obviously thought he was on safe ground as tea was not made. Wrong. I made him toast. He ate it sobbing. He kept saying sorry, but it was obviously done in such a way that he hoped I would go back on my word. He read his book, had a drink and I sent him upstairs. 

By the time he did get to bed, I felt like the worst mother in the world. Obviously, it was still quite early and there was no way he was going to sleep so he sat in his bed, shouting screaming and crying. He demanded to see Daddy when he got home, but then proceeded to blame his behaviour on him for getting the children up early which meant he was tired. Husband left him to it. More shouting and crying. 

Several times over, he found reasons to come out of his room but he got sent back. He demanded to see husband once again but he didn't really have anything to say. Eventually, I had to go upstairs to the spare room and Missy Woo was getting ready for bed too. He opened his door for something and so I asked him to do a couple of jobs, then I put him back into bed. Much calmer now, he said sorry and started to cry again. Hugging him, I asked him what was the matter.

His reply said it all. He told me, "I'm crying because I'm cross with myself for getting sent to bed and now I've missed the football." 

I may not be the perfect parent and yes, my children think I am evil daily. I say no to them. But that means they know what the boundaries are and they know the consequences if they cross them and that they can't have everything whenever they want it. It's hard not being liked, being blamed for the faults of others, having the product of nine months' incubation that you love dearly telling you that they hate you, but the end result is worth it. 

There will be parents out there who read this post that will think I could have done it the nice way, but the only result Monkey would have been happy with would have been to play on that laptop - and that would have meant giving in and rewarding what was pretty awful behaviour.  Much as it was hard, I couldn't do that because that was the best way to guarantee a rapid re-occurrence. My reaction might have been extreme, but I felt it was proportionate to the behaviour. Since this incident, he has been really well-behaved and much less argumentative about things that are regularly flashpoints with him. I think the penny has finally dropped. 

Parenting isn't about being their friend all the time. It's being the critical friend, who has their best interests at heart. It's hard. It's relentless and it's not for the faint-hearted. But if you think you are right, it's worth standing your ground. 
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